Backpacking Camera Decision: Panasonic Lumix LX5 vs GF2

Notice the blurry middle?…

The picture above was just taken with my current camera, the Panasonic Lumix FH20. I actually received this camera almost 2 years ago from my wife as a Christmas gift. The reason I wanted it then (and still) was/is to use as a backpacking camera. As can be noticed, I like to take pictures, and even do some videos here and there to use on my blog, or on my YouTube channel, so obviously, a camera is an important to me. 

The camera I had before the FH20 was a poor excuse for a camera, so when I upgraded I wanted something that essentially took good photos and video. After a fair amount of researching and asking around, I decided on the FH20, and I must admit that after using it for nearly 2 years now, I have mostly good things to say about it.

  1. It takes good pictures.
  2. It records good video (however, with one limitation…see below).
  3. It is easy to use.
  4. It is (reasonably) lightweight.
  5. It is (reasonably) compact.

As can be seen in the list above, the FH20 camera did a pretty good job at filling my needs. And to make it better, I got it at a great price on Amazon, which only made it that much better. However, as can be seen in the leading photo on this post, it has lost its ability to take good photos, which is the one aspect that can undermine all the other remaining features in this list…

So, what happened?

Over the past few months I have noticed a small scratch on the outer glass covering the lens. At first, it was only a small scratch that would barely, if at all, show up in the photos. However, over time, the scratch seemed to get worse and worse. I am not really sure what caused the scratch, but all I can say is that it is there. I will admit though, it has been used. As with all of my gear, I try to take care with it, but I don’t baby it when I need to use it. I expect it to do its job when it is needed, and to be honest, despite the results (already?) I think that it has done a great job.

Over the last few weeks, I have noticed the scratch has looked deeper than at first. As well, when taking pictures looking into a light source, I have been able to clearly see the scratch in the photos. I made do with this for a while, but have been wondering if I could do something about it…

Note the scratches on the lens…

So, tonight, I loaded up a soft, polishing brush on my dremel, and then took it to the glass. I will admit, this was not my smartest move in a while… Sadly, as I had hoped, the polishing brush did not remove, or even lessen the scratches, but instead actually rubbed a blurry image into the lens… (that is the best way I can describe it…)

So, long story short, my camera is not up-to-par anymore, at least in my opinion. And I need another one. Why not go with another FH20, since I was so happy with the one I already had? As I said, I got mine at what I felt was a great price ($120) and now, just doing a quick search (on Amazon) I find them for as low as $169 (new). Also, as I had mentioned, there was one limitation I found with this camera and this was the fact that I could not zoom in or out while actually shooting video. So, considering this, unless I could find this camera for an even better price than what I initially got it for, I am not really interested, at least at this point.

Which leads me to this post…

For the last few months now, I have had the Panasonic Lumix LX5 in my “Wish List” on Amazon.com. However, on my most recent hiking trip I got to check out Brian Green‘s Panasonic Lumix GF2. And now I am not sure which I want.

Pixel wise, either is a winner in my book. For what I am wanting a camera for, either of these cameras are just fine IMO when it comes to the amount of pixels. As well, things such as 3D photos and touch screen displays are not of a concern to me. Now don’t get me wrong, I want the camera to take good (or even great) photos and video, but I just feel like either of these cameras will do both of these.

According to a comparison that I read between the two models though, it really looks like the GF2 has the LX5 in a couple of ways, although not all. The GF2 shoots in full 1080p vs 720p, has a higher image quality, a larger sensor and features interchangeable lenses. Although, it looks like the LX5 has a few worthwhile features as well, including image stabilization, faster continuous shooting and longer battery life, not to mention it is lighter than the GF2.

I have not been able to put my hands on an LX5, but there have been a lot of suggestions for the LX5 in the comment section on a previous post over on Brian’s Backpacking Blog. However, as I mentioned earlier in this post, I was able to briefly check out the GF2 that Brian Green has now been using for the last few months. He had lots of great things to say about this camera, and after handling the camera for a moment, and of course checking out the pics that he has taken with it, well I am definitely impressed.

As well, concerning the GF2, I love the fact that it has the same button layout, and I would assume, pretty much the very near same user interface as the Lumix FH20 that I currently have. This would be very nice as far as I am concerned as I would not have to relearn an entire system!

So, considering at the moment I am looking at approximately $360 for either of these cameras, it will be a bit before I can drop some money on a new one. However, these are the 2 that I am really, really considering. (But, I will admit, I am not throwing out other options, but I am about 99.9% sure that one of these 2 will be what I go with.)

So, just curious if anyone has any experience with either of these cameras and can offer some input on them. As I said, this will be for backpacking use. Although, I will admit, I will probably be more careful with either of these cameras than I have been with my FH20. I have carried the FH20 in my pants pocket and have even used it in some slight misting, as well, it has been out and used in the temps ranging from the mid teens to around 100 F and with high humidity. So, with this in mind, I cannot really say that my FH20 has underperformed, but again, I will be more considerate with the newer camera…

So, feel free to leave your thoughts on these cameras below!

Thanks,

~Stick~

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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18 Responses to Backpacking Camera Decision: Panasonic Lumix LX5 vs GF2

  1. Jason says:

    Micro 4/3 is definitely the way to go in the future.. I have a panasonic gh2, and while it is somewhat heavy – it takes amazingly incredible video and great stills. There are a plethora of lenses available for micro 4/3 cameras (both olympus and panasonic share lenses) If you are a nerd (and Im sure you are) you will love the hackability of many of these cameras, especially something like the gh2 for true cinema quality video.

    Check out the Olympus PEN series as well as the Panny cameras.. the smaller gf2 is being replaced right now, so you will find amazing deals on it.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Thanks Jason. I will admit, this stuff really confuses me right now. I have found that camera talk can get pretty techy…and hard for me to understand everything that they are… I need to start reading up on it though.

      I really liked Brian’s gf2 and at this point, this is what I am leaning into. Although, this is a bit much for me to spend right now, so I went ahead and got the SZ7 for now so I would at least have a camera again. I am going to save some money though to get another camera, and like I said, at this point the GF2 is what I am thinking. I like that the lenses can be changed, but that the body is so small.

      I would like to get into them more, especially for my backpacking trips, but being the UL’er, I am still conscious of weight, as well as bulk. Also, I have decided that I am going to start carrying a dedicated camera pouch for my cameras rather than just leaving them in my pocket. I have a smaller Mountainsmith Cybershot II case that I bought to use with my FH20, but didn’t… and now I have a messed up lens…so I will suck up the weight and start using this case for the SZ7…

      Anyway, thanks for the info.

      ~Stick~

      Like

  2. WildandWiser says:

    Stick,
    I have been eyeing a Sony HDR-PJ260V mini camcorder. I know, I know… you are looking for a point and shoot but bare with me for a second. Lightwieight and very small for a camcorder, true HD 1080p video, 8.9 megapixel stills, and has 16 GB built in flash memory. I plan on getting a 64 GB removable flash drive for additional memory. What has intrigued me about this little gem is it has a built in projector on the outiside of the led viewer. Whatever you have in memory can be projected onto a larger surface. So I am trying to find out about uploading a movie to watch thru the projector. It could possibly put a new twist on camp time leasure activity. Imagine lounging in a shelter watching a movie or the video you just recorded earlier in the day on a suspended piece of white tyvek. It’s something different to consider…

    Like

    • Stick says:

      WildandWiser,

      Thanks for the info, I will check that out. I do have a pretty small camcorder now, it is a JVC model with a built in hard drive. However, my concern with it is that while it is still small, it is both heavier and bulkier than I would prefer, as well as just a little too complicated for me to deal with in the field. I know that I have also had some issues with the formats when trying to transfer to my computer, and then to edit and go through… Anyway, I am not sure how that one compares to what I have now, but I will check it out.

      Thanks,

      ~Stick~

      Like

  3. Aaron says:

    Thanks Stick! We actually use a pretty wide variety of cameras for the magazine, but I’m a bit partial to the Panasonic line including the GH & LX series at the moment – You’ll see some Nikon DSLR stuff in there as well. 🙂 Usually these days I’m finding that the smaller and lighter of a camera that I can get away with, the more I end up enjoying both the trip and the photography along the way.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Aaron,

      It sounds like Panasonic has a pretty good line at least for backpackers anyway. It seems like a number of hikers like them…

      My wife has a D40, but I have no clue how to operate all those manual settings…

      Thanks for the info, and keep up the great work!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  4. Hendrik says:

    Both are good cameras. The GF2 obviously has more options which come at an expense of more lenses.

    Personally I really like the Sony NEX-5N, an absolute great camera, love the colours it produces, great handling, intuitive UI.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Thanks Hendrik. I knew that this is what you use, and seem to really love based on other comments on other sites… I just wonder if this camera would be too much for me though. Like I said, I know very little about all the manual settings on cameras, and admit that I enjoy the “auto” settings. Although, I would like to learn a little more about cameras because I would seriously like to up the quality of both my still pics as well as my videos that I do…

      I did go ahead and get the Lumix SZ7 so that I can have a camera back in hand and will eventually get another camera. One up in the ranks of these, so I will be keeping up with this post, as well as trying to learn a little about all of it.

      Thanks again for your comment!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  5. atkory says:

    oh man I’m totally geeking on this. I can’t wait to see more responses. I’d read Brian’s post before but now I’m more in the market. I never knew there were point and shoots with interchangeable lenses. What I need is the ability to set f-stops and manually manage my focal point. I HATE auto-focus.

    Like

  6. Aaron says:

    Stick,
    Both are really great cameras! Panasonic just announced the LX7 & GF5 so you may want to check those out as well. The LX7 will offer 1080p video and feature a brighter lens than its LX5 predecessor…At the cost of a slightly smaller sensor. The GF series are great cameras if you can find a lens that works for you…I just wish their 14-42 zoom started just a bit lower at a 24mm equivalent wide end like the built in lens of the LX series…Great for landscapes. Also, many of the micro four thirds lenses have stabilization built into the lens itself. All that said, if you wanted to pick up the LX5 or a GF2 / 3 now might be the time – Deals can definitely be found with the new models right around the corner.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Thanks Aaron for the info! TBH, I think I am going to pull the trigger on a Panasonic Lumix SZ7 at this moment, and then save for one of these bigger, better cameras. That may not sound intuitive, but I need to replace my camera now and after doing some number crunching, the ones I listed are out of reach for the moment. However, I will be picking one up in the future, so this gives me time to weigh my options a little more and to give me some time to maybe learn a few things about cameras in general and then make a more educated decision… As far as deals right now, I know that both can be had for the $360 mark over on Amazon, but I have heard of the GF2 being even less than this, probably during some sort of mega blow out sale or something… Anyway, just curious, what sort of camera do you use? You have some really nice pics in your magazine and I always enjoy looking at them!

      Like

  7. Darren M. says:

    Hey Stick! I also used to be a full time photog and now it’s just another expensive hobby! First of all just wanted to say, don’t waste your money on trying to get the lens buffed out is some way…it just wont work. Now, let’s just be honest about how those scratches got there to begin with…you tried to wipe off your lens with cuben fiber didn’t you?! 🙂 Just messin’ with you.

    I have had and currently have many digital cameras and my current backpacking camera is the Sony NEX5N. Like the Panasonic GF2, it has the larger sensor and it’s great for overall image quality but, I am going to sell it for the new Sony RX100. I’m not necessarily an Sony honk, it just so happens that this new camera looks to be the perfect (dare I make such a statement?) backpacking camera.

    First: Truly pocket size and weight with battery is 8.5 oz.
    Second: Larger sensor. Not as big as the 4/3rd’s cameras, but bigger than the compacts
    Third: Full HD 1080p video
    Forth: fast 28-100mm/ Carl Zeiss lens (lets in more light) that retracts into the camera.

    OK, now there’s always a catch…it’s pricey….like $650 pricey! I’ve shot Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic and Leica, they are all good cameras. If you decide to go with either of the Panasonic’s you’ll love them, but if you want something that is a bit more compact without giving up much else (except wallet space) take a gander at the Sony. They are really innovating in photography.

    Good Luck! —-Darren

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    • Stick says:

      Darren,

      Thanks for the tip on NOT buffing out the lens… that would have been useful to know before I tried… 🙂 But hey, at least I know now, and at least my daughter will get a camera to play with…

      I am pretty sure that the Sony you mention is the same one that Hendrik from Hiking in Finland also uses. I am sure it is a great camera, but unfortunately, it is a little pricey for me! The 2 cameras I mentioned are more pricey than I can go right now (unless I sell some cuben fiber), but I do want to end up with one of these soon enough… The picture quality of the GF2 is really nice and I like it.

      Saying this, I am looking at the Panasonic Lumix SZ7 right now since I now need a camera for the sake of my blog and the YouTube channel. This is in my budget at this moment, and then save some more (or sell some stuff) to get one of the others…

      Also, that new Sony you mention looks like it will be a winner though. I will have to check that out too…add it to the list. Question for you though, how is the user interface? I like the simplicity of the Lumix FH20 and the GF 2 seems to be very similar. Also, being not much of a camera buff, the auto settings are my friend until I can get the hang of some of the manual settings. Sony always seemed to be techy to me, but then again, this is an assumption being as I have never actually owned one of their cameras…

      Thanks for the help, and I will keep an eye out for that camera…

      ~Stick~

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  8. Actually I bet a reputable camera shop could buff out the scratch for you, or oddly enough, a watch repair place. (Makes sense if you think about it, they have to buff Rolexes smooth too.) It would likely be under $100.

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    • Stick says:

      That is what I was thinking too, but my problem is there is no camera shop anywhere around me. I would have to travel about a hundred miles to get to a city with one there… That is a good point on the watch repair shop, maybe even a jewelry shop…

      Like

  9. Good timing with this post, a new camera may be on my list by next summer, although not a priority at this particular time. I went through three Panasonic Lumix, for the most part the lens quality was there, but I found the overall durability of the camera was lacking. Some will strongly disagree with that comment and that’s fine. For those who know me and are familiar with my blog know photos are very important to me and you only see a very-very small fraction of what I actually take. I was replacing my camera once a year with a new one due to it’s failing performance.

    My husband is a professional photographer, he calls “all” the point and shoot cameras “disposal cameras” including the one I have, his equipment budget is far greater than mine when it comes to cameras.

    The scratch on your lens comes from the way the lens is covered when it’s shut down, there’s not much there, although it’s it’s better than nothing it still doesn’t protect the lens as I think it should. In 2009 switched to a Canon G-10 (I think G12’s are out now), it has a more durable body and price tag to go along with it, but with buying a new camera every year at $300-350 I’m way ahead of the game. It’s now in it’s third year of service, however it’s lens cover works the same as the Lumix and many other point and shoots, so far the lens hasn’t received any damage. For added protection I searched the pro camera shops for a plastic snap on lens cap that fits over my lens when it’s shut down this adds the protection I think is needed for carrying in my shoulder pocket.

    My only complaint with my camera is the weight 15oz and bulk, OUCH! After using the camera I have it’s current photo count is over 1-million and I’m beginning to see some degradation in the photo quality. So it’s time to start looking for a replacement and hopefully lighter.

    I won’t comment on your attempt to buff out the scratch, but the 3-stooges comes to mind 🙂

    Good luck with your search and I’ll be watching to see what you get.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Thanks for the info! Unfortunately, for the sake of my blog and my YouTube channel, a camera is somewhat of a priority for me, which kind of sucks… but anyway, these are the 2 that I would really like to go with. Probably the biggest reason I would like to stay with the Panasonic Lumix lines is because I like my pictures I have taken, or at least some of them, and looking at the pics Brian has taken with his GF2 is really nice. As well, I know that the user interface is very similar on the GF2 and my FH20. I am not a huge camera buff, but like everyone else, I want to get good pictures with whatever I am using. However, I am not up-to-par on lots of the “manual” aspects of the more advanced cameras. I would like to be, and maybe one day I will get it a little better. Which is also kind of why I would like to upgrade my camera experience to one of these cameras. They seem to be just a bit more technical than the ordinary P&S.

      Anyway, saying this, due to the fact that I need to get another one pretty soon now, I am looking at the Panasonic Lumix SZ7 for now and then saving my $$ for one of the above mentioned. From what I understand, maybe I can check out the newer models coming out too…

      Like

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